What? I have a Merriam-Webster Word of the Day post on my phone. I’ve always loved words, and I enjoy starting each morning with a new word. I read the definition, listen to the recording of how to speak the word, and delete it. I seldom use the word or even remember it, but I like words. This one stopped me because even after listening to the pronunciation, I stumbled.
Triskaidekaphobia is a noun— triss-kye-dek-uh-FOH-bee-uh, a word representing a fear for the number 13. It was formed by attaching the Greek word for “13”—treiskaideka (dropping that first “e”)—to phobia (“fear of”). Because of this phobia, many elevators often don’t have a 13th-floor button, and Friday the 13th is a day many people avoid for essential events. Any identified phobia, even if it seems silly, is real, not fun, and can interfere with routine feelings of mental wellness.
Phobias are one of the most common forms of mental illness, affecting an estimated 30 percent of the United States. Everyone has irrational fears of something, but when fears become severe, interfere with the quality of life, and cause debilitating anxiety, they are called phobias. To be considered a phobia, a panic reaction to the specific object or situation needs to last six months or more. Traumatic events. movies, TV drama, and online videos are triggers for phobias. Hitchcock’s movie, “The Birds,” planted my fear of crows.
From a counselor’s nutshell, panic-inducing phobias are usually unrealistic and illogical. A typical range of fear keeps us safe. It stops us from risky activities, like walking into traffic. A person with a phobia can put themselves in harm’s way by avoiding their fearful situation or object. They might crawl over a tall, ragged fence because they have a fear of gates. They could take chances with a tornado because they fear spiders or snakes being in the basement.
A person can get help with phobias, panic attacks, and anxiety. One form of therapy for phobias is exposure; the person confronts their fear. I remember touching a snake, while someone else held it, to help me not tighten up and stop breathing every time I stepped out of the farmhouse. After being stung by a scorpion, I realized I didn’t die, and a simple Benadryl was the cure. Exposure can help connect out-of-control fear with a shot of reality.
Going to a Cognitive Behavioral counselor can be very beneficial. Together, client and therapist can attack the illogical fear; explore the who, what, where, when, why, and how of the phobia or anxiety.
If you suffer from debilitating fear, don’t be ashamed. Own it, and tell friends and family. Tell the truth and what you need if an uninvited attack happens. Remember, extreme fear is not fun, and not what you want, but it won’t kill you. Reach out for help.
Until the next time: Live while you live.
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